After a lifetime of work, as we retire to our second life, how will we define our success? Is it in the size of our bank account? Is it the collection of things we have amassed residing within the bigger-than-I-could-even-need-house? Or is it the memories of experiences and quality time spent with those who matter most to us? How big of a retirement nest egg do you need and at what cost?
It is a reasonable expectation that we work hard to make money to provide a good life for our family and prepare for our retirement – no one questions that. And along the way, it is expected that sacrifices need to be made. But the choice of what to sacrifice needs to be a conscious one as everything involves trade offs. In David Ning’s post “Sacrifices you should not make to save money” he acknowledges that sadly, people often neglect their friends and family as they endeavor to climb the corporate ladder. Whether consciously or otherwise, choices have been made and you are where you are because of them. But at what actual cost?
A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child – Simone Weil
The real costs of pursuing success
Success does not come cheap:
- Commute time spent going to and from work each day – it is not unreasonable with rush hour traffic being what is to spend an hour plus commuting each day – each way. More than two hours every day just getting to work and back. These stress packed hours add up to many negatives that impact the rest of our life:
- Stressful beginning to the work day – instead of arriving with a ready-to-go attitude, we are already beaten down.
- Frustration as we wait in traffic, unsure of the cause or duration, just waiting and burning gas as our blood pressure rises.
- Upon arriving home, wound tighter than a rubber band, tempers run short and patience is at a premium. Do you really want your first interaction with your smiling child running to welcome you home to be a snarl instead of a wide grinning hug? How long can a kid keep it up if each time they share their love you shut them down?
- 60+ hour work weeks – no time for your spouse, no time for your children, and for sure no personal time for yourself.
- Travel requirements – you need to be in Chicago tomorrow by noon for an important meeting and no one checked to learn your daughter has her ballet recital tomorrow evening. And guess who gets to explain to her why you cannot be there at this important event in her young life.
- Weekends are not your own and your family misses you.
All in all this is a very unbalanced situation with the majority of your life revolving around your job. And what is you need to work after retirement? Each decision you make along your career path involves trade offs. Yes you want to provide for your family but without being a part of the family, who are you kidding? And once spent, you can never get this time back.
“The trouble with life in the fast lane is that you get to the other end in an awful hurry” – John Jensen
I had a good friend who told me that he consciously spent his money on a beautiful home with fancy pool and tennis court and all the bells and whistles. If something should happen and he lost it all, he said he would just start over again. Throughout his career, he worked very hard and rarely saw his wife and kids, typically on a plane each Sunday, returning at week-end, ever in pursuit of fame and fortune. Yes he has an awesome house and all the “things” you could ever want. But I wonder, if he in fact did have to start over again, if anything would change? Maybe instead of such a monstrous castle, he would choose to attend a few of his son’s baseball games. Maybe he would choose a few more weekends away with his wife sharing and building on those moments that brought them together more than 30 years ago.
But you know what? He cannot go back. He lives the life he made and though very successful as measured by his bank account, I wonder how much more truly successful he could have been with a little less focus on money and a little more on the real cost to have that much money. We all need to realize before it is too late that true fulfillment in life and retirement goes far beyond a hefty bank account.
Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.